No less a personage than Lynn Jacobs, California’s director of Housing and Community Development (HCD), boarded a chartered bus this week to tour potential housing sites in Goleta. The October 5 inspection kicked off a daylong workshop to commence the revamping of the city’s housing policy, which has yet to win state approval. Jacobs was accompanied by two assistants and 40 or so city residents, staff, developers, housing advocates, slow-growth activists, and business interests including Chamber of Commerce CEO and president Kristin Amyx (above), and press members. The group journeyed to the La Sumida Nursery property, which is to be developed as apartments; stopped at Fairview Gardens farm to admire the yurts, which house farmworkers; and cruised past parcels along Hollister Avenue that are planned for high-density affordable housing.
Therein lies the rub: The Hollister parcels are supposed to be 55 percent affordable, according to the controversial housing element in the Goleta General Plan, which was adopted by the former Goleta City Council a year ago over the strenuous objections of developers who said the percentage of affordable units would prevent them from financing and selling condo developments. Additionally, a number of would-be developers with prospective projects in the rest of the city, where the affordability requirement is 30 percent, complained that environmental and traffic constraints in the General Plan prevented them from building also.
In comments delivered to the Goleta City Council in March, HCD officials agreed that the housing element presented problems. They reiterated this position on Friday, October 5. If Goleta is to satisfy state requirements that it provide its “fair share” of affordable housing, it is not enough merely to earmark housing sites, Chris Creswell emphasized; the city must also convince HCD that the sites will in fact be developed as housing. She recommended that Goleta look into fast-track procedures used in other jurisdictions to grease the wheels of affordable housing projects, and also that it consider allowing homeowners to build second units in zones now reserved for single-family homes.
At the end of the workshop, remaining participants indicated what amendments to city housing policy they favored. Many advocated reducing affordable housing requirements citywide to 20 or 25 percent; others favored keeping the current percentages. Additional comments will be accepted by the council and planning department through October 31.
Ironically, at a time when Goleta is struggling to meet-or resist-the state’s insistence that it provide its “fair share” of affordable housing, a concerned resident of the El Encanto Heights neighborhood warned the Goleta Planning Commission on October 8 that a scourge of “boarding houses” could crop up throughout the city. Louis and Elizabeth Izzo unsuccessfully appealed an application by their neighbors, Jeff and Michelle Leiphardt, to create more rooms in their home at 7295 Butte Drive. The Leiphardts insisted that the remodeling is designed to accommodate their five children, but the Izzos said that the evidence points to a boarding house in the making: Only 25 percent of the home is common area, and two of the downstairs bedrooms have doors opening directly to the outside. Even if the Leiphardts’ intentions are pure, said Louis Izzo, the next buyer will surely seize the opportunity to rent rooms, which he estimated would fetch upward of $600 per month. The strategy of renting rooms could be alluring to Goleta’s aging population, as it would allow those with grown children who wish to keep their homes to raise money after retirement. “A little piece of Isla Vista is going to be deposited in our midst,” warned Izzo. “If this project were to go through,” he predicted, “people will be jumping on this bandwagon all over the city.”
The Planning Commission approved the remodel. However, among the Izzos’ many misgivings-noise and reduced property values among them-the Planning Commission was particularly sympathetic to the concern about potential parking congestion. Commissioner Ken Knight passionately agreed that current ordinances-two off-street parking spaces per single-family home-are outdated. The commissioners asked staff to agendize a discussion about increasing the number of parking spaces required for remodels.